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"The inadequacy of U.S. airport security"

Friday, December 22, 2006

The inadequacy of airport security
Holiday rush = Long lines and lousy security
By C. J. Kelly
ComputerWorld Blog

It hit me once again how absurd airport security is.  And especially after
reading the New York Times piece by Randall Stross "Theatre of the Absurd at
the T.S.A."  I recalled the bored computer science major who created a
website where people could create fake boarding passes.  I thought it was a
clever idea.  The FBI thought otherwise I suppose.  

I recently took a trip to Dallas, TX on United.  The lines to check in were
so long that they finally called out "Anyone have a 6am flight?"  I raised
my hand.  They shuffled me to the front of the line I had been in for an
hour and a half and demanded I use the computer to check in.  I didn't
realize I could check in using the computer since I had not made the
reservations, but I found that all that was required was the confirmation
number for my flight and out popped my boarding passes.  Doh!

I ran for the security line and it was seemingly a mile long.  I searched
through my purse and bag one more time to make sure I didn't have even a
single small tube of lip gloss that would cause my bags to be searched. I
brought no liquids with me - no shampoo or conditioner or lotions.  I
figured I would buy what I needed when I arrived at my destination.

I ripped off my shoes and jacket, yanked the laptop out of the case and was
able to get through security in time to race to the gate and even then, I
was handed the replacement boarding pass without anyone checking my ID.  It
was in my hand, but no one looked at it.  I guess this is what happens when
several major flights are leaving at the same time and there's an increased
security alert.  Long lines and lousy security.

On my return flight, I had an even wierder experience.  At the Dallas
airport, United allows people to enter the airport, being that it is very
large, from many different entrance points.  Each entrance correlates to
several departure gates.  The area for each entrance is very small and
cramped, however the lines are much shorter.  

But what I noticed was that everyone had to take off shoes, hats, coats,
etc. outside a door and then enter the door carrying the armful of bins and
dragging carryon luggage as well.  It was not possible for some people to
carry all their bins so they had to leave their luggage behind, carry their
bins to the security area and then come back for their luggage.  Their
luggage was left behind them outside the security door.  It occurred to me
that this was very insecure and stupid.  Someone could have slipped
something into their luggage during that moment.  I realize that luggage
would go through the security scanners, but all the same, if not caught,
contraband would get through security detached from the evildoer.

On a previous flight, Southwest this time, I was able to print my boarding
pass in advance, but my husband could not and was required to check in at
the counter.  The counter person explained to him that he must be on a
"list", so she checked his ID and gave him a boarding pass.  He complained
loudly through the entire airport that he was on a "watch list".

Previously, one of my daughters, only 16 years old was thoroughly searched
when traveling.  I had warned her in advance that because she had a one way
ticket, she should be prepared to be searched and not stress about it.  

All in all, you have to wonder what in the world is wrong with TSA
procedures?  To tell you the truth, I wouldn't want to be in charge of that
mess. When you break up couples, search children, don't check ID, and
confiscate lip gloss instead of making sure some guy doesn't hop a fence and
climb into one of the airplanes to take a nap, there is something seriously

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